At peak of hurricane season, further delay could impede disbursal of $8.3 billion in critical disaster recovery funds for millions of people in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today announced that she has joined U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Representative Darren Soto (D-FL-9), along with other Members of Congress in calling on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately publish a Federal Register Notice (FRN) identifying the requirements for the disbursement of disaster recovery funds appropriated for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These funds are part of the Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery Program and would be used to protect Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against future hurricanes and severe weather.
In a letter sent to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, the Members noted that while HUD announced it would soon publish the requirements for the disbursement of disaster recovery funds for nine states, it failed to indicate a timeline for the disbursement of funds in which Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands would be eligible. The Members also questioned HUD’s recent decision to appoint a Federal Financial Monitor to manage Puerto Rico’s disaster funds, which includes the disbursement of the $8.3 billion in CDBG-DR. The U.S. Virgin Islands were appropriated $774 million under the same program.
“It is unconscionable that HUD has failed to publish the FRN to disburse the CDBG-DR funds needed to help mitigate the potential effects of future disasters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” wrote the Members of Congress to Secretary Carson. “Furthermore, the appointment of a Federal Financial Monitor to oversee billions of dollars in CDBG-DR funding to potentially hundreds if not thousands of contractors and subcontractors could slow the already snail-like pace at which HUD is providing aid to Puerto Rico.”
In addition to Senator Gillibrand, Senator Menendez, and Representative Soto, the letter was signed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Representatives Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-07), Jose Serrano (D-NY-15), Adriano Espalliat (D-NY-13), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Donna Shalala (D-FL-27), Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-09), Albio Sires (D-NJ-08), Gregory Meeks (D-NY-05), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL-04), Jim McGovern (D-MA-02), Tom Suozzi (D-NY-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29).
The full text of the letter may be found here.